Sunday, September 25, 2016

Calling

We’re back in Genesis today. And I’m going to read what I am sure is everyone’s favorite type of Scripture. I’m going to read a whole chapter of names, a genealogy. So, settle in and listen as I read Genesis 10.

These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Sons were born to them after the flood. The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah. The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations. The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city. Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim, Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim. Canaan fathered Sidon his firstborn and Heth, and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. Afterward the clans of the Canaanites dispersed. And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon in the direction of Gerar as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. These are the sons of Ham, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born. The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan. The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east. These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations. These are the clans of the sons of Noah, according to their genealogies, in their nations, and from these the nations spread abroad on the earth after the flood. Genesis 10:1-32

Well, that was interesting, no? Actually, when most of us read something like this we ask, ‘What is that doing in the Bible? It’s just a bunch of names.’ However, we know that there must be a good reason to include it. And there is.

To find the reason you have to go back to Genesis 9. Listen to the first verse.

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’ Genesis 9.1

This explains what chapter 10 is doing in the Bible. The people listed there are simply obeying God’s command. They were being fruitful, multiplying and filling the earth. They had received a calling, and they were fulfilling that calling. They were having babies, lots of babies.

Now, to be sure, some of these folk were having babies with no thought to God’s calling at all. They were just doing what comes naturally. But there were those who were very much aware of God’s calling and were obeying it. But either way, God’s calling was being fulfilled and chapter 10 lets us know that. Chapter 10 is about God’s calling.

This idea of the calling of God isn’t something limited to Genesis 10. The idea is found throughout the Bible, and it can include quite a variety of things.

So, God calls Moses.

Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt. Exodus 3:10

Jesus calls Peter and Andrew.

Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men. Mark 1.17

And Paul calls Timothy.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 2 Timothy 4.1-2

These are examples of the calling of God. In each case, God placed a responsibility on someone. So, Moses went to Egypt, and Israel was rescued. Peter and Andrew followed Jesus and became fishers of men. And I think that it’s safe to presume that Timothy preached the word so that people were rescued from the sins that enslaved them. In this they were simply doing what all those folk were doing in Genesis 10. They were fulfilling God’s call.

Now, all of this is important to us. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because God has placed responsibilities on each of us. We have received callings from God. Many of those callings are quite obvious. So, for example, those of you who have kids have been called to be parents. Being a member of Faith Reformed is also a calling from God. I’ve described some of what that means over the past few weeks. There are also other things that you have been called to. In each of these God has called you to do something, and you are to fulfill His calling. It gets more interesting when the question is figuring out new callings from God. We’ll come back to that.

Seeing your life in terms of God’s calling is really quite helpful. I have a few examples.

Seeing things in terms of God’s calling helps when it comes to making important decisions. So, you work for ABC Widget Company. And you’ve been offered a job at XYZ Widget Company. Do you take it? Is that God’s calling? What you need to do now is evaluate the situation using biblical principles. Here’s one. You promised your employer at ABC Widget that you would work at least a year for him. The year isn’t up. The Scriptures are clear about the importance of keeping your word. So, taking that other job needs to be put on hold at least until the year is up. God’s calling here is clear. You need to stay at your current job at least for the time being.

Let me mention a time when viewing life in terms of God’s calling was quite helpful to me. About five or six years ago the thought entered my mind that maybe it was time for me to leave Faith Reformed and pastor a different church. It wasn’t just fleeting thought but something that stayed with me. In this case, there was no issue of keeping my word or anything like that, as in my previous example. How should I decide? This is what I did. From the beginning of my time here it was clear to me that God had called me to Faith Reformed. And over the years I’ve reminded myself that He would have to make it clear that He was ending that calling before I could leave. As I considered this persistent thought, it was clear that God had not changed anything. He had not indicated that my time here was done. So, the answer to that question about leaving became obvious to me. It was a clear ‘No’. It didn’t fit with what God had already called me to do. I knew I needed to stay here until He makes it clear that His calling for me to be pastor here has ended. So, along with evaluating things according to biblical principles like keeping your word, there is also the thought that God ends one call before beginning a new one to replace it. Holding on to that makes certain decisions easier.

Here’s another blessing that viewing life in terms of God’s calling brings. You get a sense that what you’re doing is important, what you’re doing matters. For so many, having a sense that they are investing their lives well depends on what other people think about what they are doing. If others think that what they do is important, then they can feel good about themselves. But if not, well, then that’s a problem.

Again, let me use my own experience to illustrate. In the eyes of so many, being a pastor is a lazy person’s job. You don’t have to do much, except show up on Sundays. Some time ago I had mentioned to a neighbor that I once was a security guard. He slipped and said out loud what he was thinking. ‘Oh, back when you had a real job.’ [That’s a quote.]

Here’s another incident. After I spoke at Seth’s high school graduation a pastor in the audience turned and said to someone next to him, ‘That was good. What’s he doing staying at that little church?’ Add to that the time that I read that any church with only 100 members is actually a ‘micro-church’.

I think that you can see that none of these comments help me to think that what I am doing is important.

What has helped me deal with all of this is the simple yet profound thought, ‘God has called me to be pastor of Faith Reformed. He wants me here. Because of that, what I’m doing is important. It’s important to God. And so, it’s important to me.’ So, despite what others may think, I am convinced that being your pastor is important. It’s something worth giving myself to. You can say the same thing when it comes to your callings.

Of course, there are those who also are sure that what they are doing is important. But they don’t base that on God’s calling. Instead, they point to things like all the money they make, or how they really like what they are doing, or how people think highly of them because of what they do and other such things.

There are a couple of problems with this. First, that person’s sense of himself is based on himself. He does what he does, and thinks it’s all good, because it works for him. But I thought that we were to live for the praise of God and the honor of Jesus. And then, there’s the potential problem of what to think about yourself when all those things are gone. How many have the hardest time being convinced that life is worth living once the things that had made it worthwhile are gone. I am told that there are many men who die relatively soon after they retire from the job. It seems that once what made life worth living goes away - the job - they no longer have a good reason to get up in the morning. Their lives are no longer important. But that won’t happen if your life is about fulfilling whatever God has called you to. The calling will change, but there will always be a calling.

And now for that question that I said we’d come back to. How do you figure out what it is that God is calling you to? How can you know, ‘This is what God wants me to do’? This is an important question for all, but I think that it is especially important for the kids. How often do they hear, ‘And what do you want to be when you grow up?’ And how does a kid usually go about answering that question? He’ll talk about what he likes to do, what holds his interest, that sort of thing. Is that okay? Well, consider. He’s thinking about his future in terms of himself. ‘What would I like to do?’ How does that fit with Jesus’ calling to those who would be His disciples?

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Mark 8.34

Aren’t self-denial and cross-bearing factors as younger Christians are deciding their futures?

So, how do you get to know God’s calling in your life? The very first step is to be convinced of this: ‘I am here to serve Jesus. That might involved things that I love to do or it might involve things that I will hate. But regardless, I am here to serve Jesus in whatever He calls me to do.’ That’s the foundation.

What follows is prayer that goes something like this. ‘Father, I want to follow Jesus faithfully. But You know how my sin twists me up at times. So, help me. What is it that You want me to do? Guide me to the calling that You have for me.’ That applies, incidentally, not just to kids who are beginning to sort things out.

What follows that is looking to see which biblical principles apply to this or that option. And since they are young, they’ll need the advice of those who are older and know those biblical principles better. With all of that in place the Spirit will guide.

Let me close with a couple of questions.

What are the things that God has called you to do? What are your callings?

How are you doing at fulfilling those callings?

And are you benefiting from that sense of calling?

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